Opposition fails to stop UK strike bill

  • 15/09/2015
Jeremy Corbyn (Reuters)
Jeremy Corbyn (Reuters)

A bid to curb strike action has cleared its first hurdle in Britain's parliament, despite fierce criticism from opposition Labour party and its new leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The veteran leftist and one-time party outsider vowed to fight the bill after he swept to victory over the weekend, backed by a dramatic surge of grassroots support and endorsement from Labour's traditional backbone, the trade unions.

On its second reading in parliament MPs voted 317 in favour, 284 against the bill proposed by the Conservative government of Prime Minister David Cameron, meaning it will now advance to in-depth debate.

The bill drew furious dissent from Labour as Corbyn made his first appearance on the front benches.

Angela Eagle, newly appointed as shadow business secretary, called it "the most significant, sustained and partisan attack on six million trade union members and their workplace organisations that we have seen in this country in the last 30 years".

"There is absolutely no necessity whatsoever to employ the law in this draconian way," Eagle said.

Fellow shadow cabinet member Diane Abbott, speaking before the vote, described the bill as "a particularly vicious attack on the rights and liberties of trade unions".

The legislation would impose a minimum 50-per cent turnout in strike ballots, unions would have to give more notice before strikes, and employees would be able to use agency workers to replace striking staff.

Picketers would have to give their names to police and face fines if they fail to wear an official armband.